Ten Tips For Tackling Thanksgiving Dinner With A Hearing Loss

Are you worried about Thanksgiving dinner because of your hearing loss? Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays — you get to eat, you get to spend time with family, and the leftovers are always a treat. But as my hearing loss has worsened over the years, I sometimes worry how it will all go. Will I be able to follow the conversation at the table? Will I be discounted because I can’t participate like I have in the past? Rather than wallow in fear, I put together these ten tips for tackling Thanksgiving dinner with a hearing loss. I hope they help you approach the holiday with more joy and less fear. Have a great Thanksgiving!


My tips for how to survive and thrive at Thanksgiving dinner despite a hearing loss:

1.  Sit in a good spot: For me, it is very helpful if I have a wall behind me and am seated more in the middle of the table. This gives me a better shot at hearing more conversation and not being distracted by background noise behind me. Maybe you have a spot you like better. Don’t be shy about talking to the host so that your seat is in an opportune spot for you.

2.  Keep background noise down if possible: I try to keep any background music to a minimum. While your host may like to play music a little more loudly, perhaps you can ask him or her to keep the volume low during dinner.

3.  Converse with those next to you: Don’t try to participate in conversations across large distances. If you would like to talk with someone, move closer to him, or ask to continue the conversation when you have a chance to be closer together.

4.  Wear your hearing aids: Some of us hate to wear our hearing aids, but they really can help. Experiment with a couple of different settings to find what is optimal. You can even practice at home if you don’t want to spend time experimenting at the event.

5.  Try other technologies: There are many new technologies now available that can help you hear in a group setting including personal FM systems or other one to one communication devices. Some of my friends swear by these.

6.  Take a break: Don’t be shy about taking a break from the action for a few minutes to give your ears and brain a rest. Head to the restroom, or find a quiet spot in another room. Or go stand outside for a few minutes. It really helps me to clear my head and build up some energy for another round of socializing. Helping in the kitchen can also provide a nice break from the bigger group.

7.  Don’t fake it: It is very tempting to just nod along and pretend that you hear what others are saying or laugh just because others are laughing. But it can be dangerous, particularly if someone is asking you a question. Be brave and be honest with others if you are having trouble hearing. It will make your interactions more memorable on both sides.

8.  Give visual clues to indicate if you are having trouble hearing: If you are having trouble hearing, you can cup your ear with your hand to indicate to the speaker to speak louder without interrupting the flow of the conversation. I have seen this in action and it is very effective.

9.  Have reasonable expectations: You probably won’t hear everything that everyone says, but that is ok. Enjoy talking to the people near you, then seek out others to talk with during other parts of the day. You might even suggest to the host that people rotate seats for dessert.

10.  Bring your sense of humor: It can be hard to keep it all in perspective during the holidays when you feel like you are missing out on the fun, but try to laugh a little and be grateful for the wonderful friends and family around you. You may not hear every word they say, but you can partake in all of the good feelings around the table. Be sure to enjoy the moment.

Readers, what tips do you have for tackling Thanksgiving dinner with a hearing loss?

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18 thoughts on “Ten Tips For Tackling Thanksgiving Dinner With A Hearing Loss

  1. …and please, please don’t insist, as my father (who wears a CI) does, to sit at the head of the table. It’s the worst possible place for him to hear the conversation…the average distance between him and everyone else is maxed out. But, wait a minute! Maybe he does it on purpose, so he has a little peace and quiet?


  2. Thank you Shari! I read your article in Hearing Loss Magazine and it really spoke to me in a way that other advice columns haven’t.

    You’re a treasure!


  3. Yup. We’re going up country to be with old friends on Thanksgiving who understand my “condition”. Even so, their learning curve is steeper than mine it would seem. I don’t see much changing in the short term. Your suggestion to zero in on one table companion may be the only way to overcome isolation. Sitting in the middle with my back to the glass wall would likely help as well. I look forward to it. Happy Thanksgiving Shari. And thanks.


  4. What a wonderful post. My aunt and my mother both had hearing loss and there were times when it was comical as they yelled at each other across the table. But they were quite elderly at the time and had lost their filters, God bless them. I am probably at the beginning stages of hearing loss and find your tips wonderful. Wishing you a quiet, serene Thanksgiving with a table of great conversation.


  5. Any suggestions/do’s/don’ts for the hearing who are going to Thanksgiving dinner with someone who is hearing-impaired? I’m actually interpolating some ideas from what you wrote here but I’d be genuinely curious to read hints about what the hearing can do to make a hearing-impaired more comfortable. This is a relatively new thing btw, age-related, my SO’s dad has been losing his hearing for a while. He has at least found some better hearing aids, last Thanksgiving was the best we’d had in a long time, but I just have so little experience with this.


  6. Just joined your blog after reading your article in Hearing Loss. I find sitting at the head of the table the best spot for lip reading since I can see people on both sides of me instead of swinging my head like at a tennis match trying to keep up with the conversation.


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